More Input, Less…Everything Else

I wrote about message count at the end of 2017. The idea came back to me this week since I’ve had a LOT of free time due to state testing and other end-of-year random events. I’ve found that this free time is good for trying out some things that don’t need much continuity, like one-off activities, or something I never got around to but have resources for, and dare I say…experimenting…the last couple weeks.

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Reading LLPSI, Teaching NONE of it!

I first adopted more realistic expectations of students after understanding how languages are acquired. This was within the first few months of teaching in my first job, so I was lucky; some have never had that opportunity. However, I was still trying to apply what I learned to a textbook program still focused on grammar, so it was a rocky start to any comprehension-based and communicative approach, to say the least. Despite what some might claim, CI and grammar just don’t mix. That is, whenever we decide to teach grammar, even for legit reasons, students are likely not receiving CI.

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Why Translation Activities Are Still Crucial

I’m listening to a section of Latin 1 students translate out loud to their partner, going back and forth every sentence or so (Volleyball Translation). Sure, most of class time involves purposeful interaction comprised of meaningful input. As the language expert, I provide most of those messages, asking questions to engage students in thought, as well as genuinely learn something about everyone in the room. And of course, students spend a LOT of time reading.

However, students need an opportunity to interact with each other well beyond all that input to laugh, connect, or maybe commiserate about teenage things. For beginning language students, that’s going to be in English. Hence, the unlikely activity in comprehension-based and communicative language teaching (CCLT): translation…

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The Gladiator Game

This is a lot like Latin Clue!, which was a fun way to end exploring Roman housing, but really only a one-off activity. The Gladiator Game, however, is much simpler, has faster game play, and is more likely to be repeatable. My students did this 2-3 different days over a couple weeks while exploring the topic of Roman gladiators, and reading Rūfus et arma ātra, as well as Rūfus et gladiātōrēs. The basic idea is for students to choose a gladiator’s actions during a fight. In this game, you can take on more of a GM (Game Master) role for no-prep, and maximum flexibility, or set up some things during your planning period beforehand and run it during class.

Either way, you’ll need to determine some details. I’ve found that VERBA cards serve this purpose nicely. Otherwise, determine a list using basic storyasking strategies (e.g. “should there be a lion, or giraffe?”), write them on the board, assign a number to each, and anytime you’d “draw,” instead just roll dice and choose from the list. Perhaps this is best to do after a few times when students have a better sense of the game. How many details? Try 5 for each category and see how long you can play the game. You’ll need…

– gladiator type & name
– opponents
– wounds
– health
attacks

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Two Major Assumptions To Be Avoided

A teacher shared with me some class plans to have students find verbs, adjectives, etc. in a text while using no dictionaries (but a grammar reference sheet), then answer *some* questions about comprehension. The purpose was “to see who needs help.” The adjustment? To provide corrective feedback. The expectation? That identifying parts of speech and grammatical forms would improve by the end of the year. There are two major assumptions regarding that intended purpose, adjustment, and expectation, and I’ve seen them before elsewhere:

  1. What is taught is learned.
  2. Personalized *corrective* feedback results in uptake.
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The Phenomenon Of Cool: It Can’t Top Silly

“I don’t wanna play your stupid game!” has stayed with me since I heard a grad school professor share an anecdote from early-career teaching. It refers to how even the best-designed activity or cool idea a teacher has can flop instantly in the classroom. When a teacher spends time on that activity or idea, they get mad. Mad teachers resent teaching students. Students resent mad teachers. No bueno.

Cool is not really something a teacher can control for, or at least if they try, they’re likely to fail. Sometimes students deem something that a teacher does cool, but it’s entirely up to them. Most often, though, students reject what is presented as cool, if only to defy and resist. “This game is stupid” is likely to anger a lot of teachers. The trick is to make the game stupid already.

That’s why we need silly.

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